|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 48, Part I, 10 March 1997
This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ In the 7 March issue of OMRI's journal, TRANSITION**: BALKAN UNREST - Pyramid Schemes Leave Albania on Shaky Ground - Back to the Basics in Bulgaria - Protests in Serbia Raise Hopes of Reconciliation in Kosovo - In Post-Dayton Balkans, Change Comes Where It's Least Expected PLUS... - RUSSIA: Chernomyrdin: A Prime Minister Without Politics - VIEWPOINT: Azerbaijan: Democracy in a State of Emergency and "Reviving the Black Sea" For subscription information about OMRI's new monthly, send an e-mail message to transition-DD@omri.cz **See important message below on the upcoming changes to TRANSITION ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA CHUBAIS RETURNS TO GOVERNMENT. President Boris Yeltsin appointed Anatolii Chubais, his chief of staff, to serve as first deputy prime minister on 7 March. Chubais is charged with revamping the chaotic and ineffective governmental structure. Chubais had held the same post until January 1996, when he was dismissed for failing to deal with wage and pension arrears, which were thought to have contributed to the poor showing of the pro-government Our Home is Russia party in the December 1995 election. There is no word on who will replace Chubais as chief of staff. The announcement of Chubais' appointment was delayed until late 7 March, presumably to prevent negative reactions to his appointment from interfering with the generally positive media coverage of Yeltsin's state of the nation address the previous day. Another advantage of the delay was that no newspapers would be published for the next three days, since 8 March was International Women's Day. -- Peter Rutland REACTION TO CHUBAIS APPOINTMENT. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev described the appointment of Chubais as a mistake and a challenge to all of Russia, Russian media reported on 7 March. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Communist Party Deputy Chairman Valentin Kuptsov used stronger words, comparing the appointment to "spitting in the face of society;" Zyuganov claimed that Chubais was almost as hated in Russia as Hitler, RTR reported. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said a narrow clique of politicians was being reshuffled "like a greasy old pack of cards," according to AFP. In contrast, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who crossed swords with Chubais for years over privatization policy, expressed the hope that Chubais's "decisiveness" would improve the government's work. U.S. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns said: "We look forward to working with" Chubais, whom he called a "talented, tough advocate of Russia's national interests." -- Laura Belin YABLOKO SAYS NO. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii announced on 7 March that Yabloko members will not join the new cabinet as government officials had indicated during negotiations that there will be no significant changes in economic policy, Russian media reported. Appearing on NTV on 9 March, Yavlinskii confirmed that his associates would refuse to serve as mere "decoration" in the cabinet and argued that neither Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin nor Chubais should serve in the government, given the state's persistent inability to pay its debts to citizens and the high level of corruption. Yavlinskii skirted the issue of whether Yabloko deputies in the State Duma would support a no-confidence vote in the new government. Also on 9 March, Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, a close ally of Chubais, denied rumors that he will take a cabinet post. -- Laura Belin CONFUSION OVER CHECHEN PEACE TREATY, AMNESTY. Russia's NTV on 7 March quoted Chechen National Security Advisor Akhmed Zakaev as stating that the signing of the Russian-Chechen peace agreement may be postponed as Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin has sent to Grozny a substantially amended version of the text, which the Chechen leadership considers unacceptable. Also on 7 March, Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev stipulated that the amnesty for Chechen fighters would take effect only after a final vote by the Duma on 12 March, Reuters reported. On 9 March, one person was slightly injured when a bomb exploded outside the Grozny headquarters of Chechen Field Commander Shamil Basaev, according to AFP. -- Liz Fuller INGUSH VICE-PRESIDENT OFFERS TO ACCOMMODATE JOURNALISTS. Boris Agapov told ITAR-TASS on 7 March that his republic is prepared to offer accommodation near the capital, Nazran, to journalists covering the situation in Chechnya should the Chechen authorities insist on their departure for security reasons. On 8 March, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko that four Russian journalists abducted in Grozny on 4 March are still alive, and that President Aslan Maskhadov has ordered that efforts to locate them and secure their release be stepped up. A senior Chechen Interior Ministry official warned the Russian media against publishing unverified reports about the abduction that could jeopardize their release. -- Liz Fuller CADET SHOOTS COMRADES, COMMANDER. Sergei Lepnev, 18, a first-year cadet at the Kamyshin Military Construction Academy in Volgograd Oblast, shot dead the 32-year-old captain of his guard detachment and five other cadets on 9 March, Russian media reported. The incident, in which three other cadets were also wounded, occurred during a routine changing of the guard at the academy. Lepnev fled the scene with another cadet, but was later tracked by police to a local home, where officers convinced him to surrender. The motive for the shootings remains unclear, although military investigators cited by NTV suggested that it could have resulted from severe hazing, a chronic problem for young recruits in the Russian military. -- Scott Parrish YELTSIN, LUKASHENKA SIGN JOINT DECLARATION. President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed a joint declaration "covering the entire sphere of bilateral relations," ITAR- TASS reported on 7 March. Opening the meeting, Yeltsin told Lukashenka that Russia and Belarus have the "closest relations," adding that ties should be further improved in order to "achieve a level of integration that exceeds integration in Europe and other parts of the world." Echoing the largely unimplemented April 1996 Russo-Belarusian community agreement, the declaration called for establishing a common legal system and currency, in addition to unifying budgetary and other economic policies. Despite such sweeping declarations, economic unification has made little concrete progress with Russia tightening customs controls on the Belarusian border only last week because of widespread smuggling. The two presidents also declared "unanimous" opposition to NATO enlargement, while denying that Russo-Belarusian integration is directed against the West. -- Scott Parrish PRIMAKOV, SOLANA DISCUSS NATO-RUSSIA CHARTER. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana met in Moscow on 9 March for a third round of talks about the proposed NATO-Russia charter, Russian and Western agencies reported. Like the previous meetings, no details were released to the press, which received only tersely worded statements from NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Russian Foreign Ministry. The NATO statement said the talks were "proceeding positively," and the Russian statement also said that "positive work was done" during Solana's visit, although it noted that "differences remain on a number of issues." On 10 March, Solana departed Moscow for a tour of Central Asia. A similar tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia last month sparked accusations by Moscow politicians and commentators that NATO seeks to undermine Russian influence in the CIS. -- Scott Parrish CANCELED VISIT SPARKS DIPLOMATIC SPAT WITH TOKYO. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has demanded that Moscow explain why Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Ilyushin abruptly canceled a scheduled late February visit to Tokyo, citing pressing domestic issues, but then went to Switzerland a few days later to press St. Petersburg's bid to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, Reuters reported on 6 March. "We deserve a satisfactory explanation from the Russian government," said Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hiroshi Hashimoto, who complained that a discussion with Russian Ambassador to Japan Aleksandr Panov had not produced one. Ilyushin's visit to Switzerland was also disappointing, as the International Olympic Committee announced on 7 March that St. Petersburg had been eliminated from the competition to host the 2004 games. -- Scott Parrish POLITICIANS MARK WOMEN'S DAY. Marking International Women's Day on 8 March with an address on Radio Rossii, Yeltsin said Russia's greatest treasure was its "beautiful, kind and intelligent women." He praised women's wisdom and resourcefulness, noting that "in order to solve family budget problems, sometimes you have to think even harder than our [parliamentary] deputies or government, because unlike them, you have to fulfill your budget." Meanwhile, about 700 representatives of Viktor Anpilov's radical left-wing movement Workers' Russia demonstrated on Moscow's October Square on 8 March, NTV reported. "With the restoration of Soviet power all of women's rights will be restored to them," Anpilov pledged. -- Laura Belin TEENAGE CRIME. Teenage crime has been rising faster than adult crime and now accounts for 68% of all recorded crimes in Moscow oblast, Trud reported on 6 March. The article said there were 120,000 cases of children under 14 (the age of criminal responsibility) committing criminal acts, such as stealing food, sometimes at the instigation of their families. Half the teenagers who commit crimes neither work nor attend school, but spend their days begging, cleaning cars, etc. In sharp contrast to the Soviet era, 1.5 million school-age children neither study nor (officially) work. -- Peter Rutland DUMA APPROVES INDEXATION OF PENSIONS, PROTEST ACTION. Despite the government's strong objections, the State Duma approved in the first reading a draft law to increase the minimum pension by 13% to 78,620 rubles ($14) effective from 1 March 1997, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 March. According to the Duma's committee on labor and social policy, financing the increase will require an additional 10.5 trillion rubles this year. The head of the Pension Fund Vasilii Barchuk and Deputy Finance Minister Izosim Molchanov blasted the decision and warned that the indexation is likely to bring to naught the government's efforts to repay pension arrears by 1 July 1997. The Duma also decided by 285 votes to 11 with four abstentions to support the large scale protests scheduled by trade unions for 27 March. -- Natalia Gurushina MORE TROUBLE IN SPACE. The Russian-American crew aboard the Mir orbital space station was forced to use emergency equipment after the failure of the main oxygen generator on 7 March, AFP reported. This is the latest in a series of accidents aboard the Mir station, including problems with the waste water system in November, a fire in February, and the recent failure to re-dock a supply spacecraft using a new docking system. The chief of the flight, Vladimir Solovev, however, said that the problem with the cargo ship will not affect the Russian-American space program and the next docking of the Mir station and the U.S. shuttle will take place in May, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 March. He said that the cargo craft will be scrapped and burned in the Earth's atmosphere between 11 and 12 March. Parts of the craft may fall into the Pacific Ocean. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS. Armen Sarkisyan, currently recuperating from windpipe surgery in London, told journalists on 7 March that he had submitted his resignation the previous day as he needs further intensive medical treatment, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL reported. President Levon Ter- Petrossyan, who has temporarily assumed the duties of premier, accepted the resignation on 8 March having initially proposed that Sarkisyan remain in his post until he has recovered. Sarkisyan had served as prime minister since early November 1996. -- Liz Fuller RUSSIAN STATE DUMA DELEGATION IN TBILISI. On the second day of a three- day official visit to Tbilisi, a Russian State Duma delegation headed by Duma deputy chairman Mikhail Gutseriev met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 7 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Talks focused on bilateral relations, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the possibility of creating an "Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus," presumably intended as an official counterpart to the existing Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus. Gutseriev subsequently told journalists that there were "no insoluble problems" in bilateral relations between the two countries. He also said that Russia would consider withdrawing the CIS peacekeeping forces currently deployed in Abkhazia if Georgia requests this. -- Liz Fuller LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT IN KAZAKSTAN. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas ended a three-day visit to Kazakstan on 8 March after signing agreements with his Kazak counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev covering elimination of double taxation, standardization and certification, and legal issues, according to Russian sources and the Baltic News Service. Talks focused on the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda which Nazarbayev called "extraordinarily important to Kazakstan." Kazakstan is rich in oil but thus far has had a hard time shipping it to prospective customers. Economic agreements signed between the two countries would allow Kazakstan the right to ship oil, as well as ferrous and non- ferrous metals, through the Lithuanian port. Lithuania would receive a percentage of the materials for the use of the Klaipeda port. Lithuania is also looking to import grain from Kazakstan and to export meat and dairy products to the Central Asian country. -- Bruce Pannier KAZAKSTAN'S DEBT TO TURKMENISTAN. The Kazakstani government, using a now familiar tactic, agreed to pay off its debt for Turkmen gas supplies by barter, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Kazakstan presently owes $24.3 million for Turkmen power. The Ministry of Power and Coal will send the equivalent of the debt in asbestos, phosphorus, lead, rolled copper, and other unspecified items. Kazakstan had a similar deal with Kyrgyzstan, exchanging Kazak coal for Kyrgyz hydro-power, and Kazakstan has also allowed local officials in the northern part of the country to barter for energy shipments with Russia, usually trading grain for electricity and heating. -- Bruce Pannier UZBEK ACTIVIST RELEASED BY RUSSIAN POLICE. Uzbek human rights activist Albert Mousin was released by Russian authorities on 8 March, RFE/RL reported. Mousin had been picked up in February during a random check of documents by local militia and taken into custody when it was learned Uzbekistan had a warrant out for his arrest (see OMRI Daily Digest 24 February 1997). The release comes despite Uzbekistan's insistence that Mousin be extradited to stand trial on charges of "intentionally spreading falsehoods undermining the state and society." -- Bruce Pannier MORE AGREEMENT IN TAJIK TALKS. The sixth round of peace talks between the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) ended on 8 March with the signing of an agreement on integrating the armed forces of the country, Russian and Western sources reported. The number two in the UTO, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, and Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov signed the agreement in Moscow. Under its terms, the UTO will bring all its forces remaining in Afghanistan to Tajikistan within two months and these, together with UTO forces already inside the country, will be distributed to 10 zones where they will be disarmed. The second phase will be the preparation of UTO forces to serve in legal government formations, at the end of which the UTO will declare its forces disbanded. The final phase, to be completed by 1 June, will be the actual assignment of UTO cadres into the Tajik armed forces units and militia. -- Bruce Pannier [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Steve Kettle *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! What's in Store for the magazine Transition We've learned much in the last two years about what sort of magazine Transition can be and what role it should play in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Of greatest help in this process has been the advice of readers. Among some of the desired changes are for Transition to offer even more articles by writers in the region -- lively opinion pieces as well as fact-filled analysis and expanded departments. Accordingly, Transition will be substantially restructured and relaunched as a monthly with the issue dated June 1997. The last biweekly issue will be 6 April, followed by a brief hiatus. All existing subscriptions will be honored and extended according to the new monthly frequency, which is priced at $65 for 12 issues. As before, we offer a substantial discount for readers in and of the countries we cover (apply to the contacts listed below for more information). For engaged intellectuals, policymakers, journalists, and scholars from the region, the new Transition will provide a rare forum for the exchange of ideas and criticism on political, economic, and cultural issues and events. For more information, contact the OMRI Marketing Department at tel. (420-2) 6114 2114, fax (420-2) 6114 3181; email: transition-DD@omri.cz *^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^!*^! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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